I was sitting in my office, cleaning the
debris out of my thirty-eight and wondering where
my next case was coming from. I like being a private eye, and even
though once in a while I’ve had my gums massaged
with an automobile jack, the sweet smell of greenbacks makes it all worth it.
Not to mention the dames, which are a minor preoccupation of mine that
I rank just ahead of breathing. That’s why,
when the door to my office swung open and a long-haired blonde named
Heather Butkiss came striding in and told me she
was a nudie model and needed my help, my salivary glands shifted into
third.She wore a short skirt and a tight
sweater and her figure described a set of parabolas that could cause
cardiac arrest in a yak.
“What can I do for you, sugar?”
“I want you to find someone for me.”
“Missing person? Have you tried the police?” “Not exactly, Mr. Lupowitz.”
“Call me Kaiser, sugar. All right, so what’s the scam?”
“That’s right, God.The Creator, the Underlying Principle, the First
Cause of Things, the All Encompassing. I want you
to find Him for me.”
I’ve had some fruit cakes up in the office before, but when they’re
built like she was, you listened.
“That’s my business, Kaiser. You just find Him.”
“I’m sorry, sugar. You got the wrong boy.”
“Unless I know all the facts,” I said, rising.
“O.K., O.K.,” she said, biting her lower lip.She straightened the seam
of her stocking, which was strictly for my
benefit, but I wasn’t buying any at the moment.
“Let’s have it on the line, sugar.”
“Well, the truth is–I’m not really a nudie model”
“No. My name is not Heather Butkiss, either. It’s Claire Rosensweig
and I’m a student at Vassar. Philosophy major.
History of Western Thought and all that. I have a paper due january.
On Western religion.All the other kids in the
course will hand in speculative papers. But I want to know. Professor
Grebanier said if anyone finds out for sure,
they’re a cinch to pass the course. And my dad’s promised me a
Mercedes if I get straight A’s.”
I opened a deck of Luckies and a pack of gum and had one of each.
Her story was beginning to interest me. Spoiled coed. High IQ and a
body I wanted to know better.
“What does God look like?”
“I’ve never seen him.”
“Well, how do you know He exists?”
“That’s for you to find out.”
“Oh, great. Then you don’t know what he looks like? Or where to begin looking?”
“No. Not really, Although I suspect he’s everywhere. In the air, in
every flower, in you and I–and in this chair.”
So she was a pantheist. I made a mental note of it and said
I’d give her case a try–for a hundred bucks a
day, expenses, and a dinner date. She smiled and okayed the deal. We
rode down in the elevator together. Outside it
was getting dark.
Maybe God did exist and maybe He didn’t, but somewhere in that city
there were sure a lot of guys who were going to
try and keep me from finding out.
My first lead was Rabbi Itzhak Wiseman, a local cleric who owed me a
favor for finding out who was rubbing pork on
his hat. I knew something was wrong when I spoke to him because he was
scared. Real scared.
“Of course there’s a you-know-what, but I’m not even allowed to say
His name or He’ll strike me dead, which I could
never understand why someone is so touchy about having his name said.”
“You ever see Him?”
“Me? Are you kidding? I’m lucky I get to see my grandchildren.”
“Then how do you know He exists?”
“How do I know? What kind of question is that? Could I get a suit like
this for fourteen dollars if there was no one
up there? Here, feel a gabardine—how can you doubt?”
“You got nothing more to go on?”
“Hey–what’s the Old Testament? Chopped liver? How do you think Moses
got the Israelites out of Egypt? With a smile
and a tap dance?
Believe me, you don’t part the Red Sea with some gizmo from
Korvette’s.It takes power.”
“So he’s tough, eh?”
“Yes. Very tough. You’d think with all that success he’d be a lot sweeter.”
“How come you know so much?”
“Because we’re the chosen people. He takes best care of us of all His
children, which I’d also like to someday
discuss with Him.”
“What do you pay Him for being chosen?”
So that’s how it was. The Jews were into God for a
lot. It was the old protection racket. Take care
of them in return for a price. And from the way Rabbi Wiseman was
talking, He soaked them plenty. I got into a cab
and made it over to Danny’s Billiards on Tenth Avenue.
The manager was a slimy little guy I didn’t like.
“Chicago Phil here?”
“Who wants to know?”
I grabbed him by the lapels and took some skin at the same time.
“In the back,” he said, with a change of attitude.
Chicago Phil. Forger, bank robber, strong-arm man, and avowed atheist.
“The guy never existed, Kaiser. This is the straight dope. It’s a big
hype. There’s no Mr. Big. It’s a syndicate.
Mostly Sicilian. It’s international. But there is no actual head.
Except maybe the Pope.”
“I want to meet the Pope.”
“It can be arranged,” he said, winking.
“Does the name Claire Rosensweig mean anything to you?”
“Oh, wait a minute. Sure. She’s that peroxide job with the bazooms
“Radcliffe? She told me Vassar.”
“Well, she’s lying. She’s a teacher at Radcliffe. She was mixed up
with a philosopher for a while.”
“No. Empiricist, as I remember. Bad guy. Completely rejected Hegel or
any dialectical methodology.”
“One of those.”
“Yeah. He used to be a drummer with a jazz trio. Then he got hooked on
Logical Positivism. When that didn’t work, he
tried Pragmatism. Last I heard he stole a lot of money to take a
course in Schopenhauer at Columbia. The mob would
like to find him—or get their hands on his textbooks so they can
“Take it from me, Kaiser. There’s no one out there. It’s a void. I
couldn’t pass all those bad checks or screw
society the way I do if for one second I was able to recognize any
authentic sense of Being. The universe is strictly
phenomenological. Nothing’s eternal. It’s all meaningless.”
“Who won the fifth at Aqueduct?”
I had a beer at O’Rourke’s and tried to add it all.up, but it made no
sense at all. Socrates was a suicide—or so
they said. Christ was murdered. Neitzsche went nuts. If there was
someone out there, He sure as hell didn’t want
anybody to know it. And why was Claire Rosensweig lying about Vassar?
Could Descartes have been right? Was the
universe dualistic? Or did Kant hit it on the head when he postulated
the existence of God on moral grounds?
That night I had dinner with Claire. Ten minutes after the check came,
we were in the sack and, brother, you can have
your Western thought. She went through the kind of gymnastics that
would have won first prize in the TiJuana
Olympics. After, she lay on the pillow next to me, her long blond hair
sprawling. Our naked bodies still intertwined.
I was smoking and staring at the ceiling.
“Claire, what if Kierkegaard’s right?”
“If you can never really know. Only have faith.”
“Don’t be so rational.
“nobody s being rational, Kaiser.”
She lit a cigarette. “Just don’t get ontological. Not now. I couldn’t
bear it if you were ontological with me.”
She was upset. I leaned over and kissed her, and the phone rang. She
got it.”It’s for you.”
The voice on the other end was Sergeant Reed of Homicide.
“You still looking for God?”
“An all-power Being? Great Oneness, Creator of the Universe? First
Cause of All Things?”
“Somebody with that description just showed up at the morgue. You
better get down here right away.”
It was Him all right, and from the looks of Him it was a professional job.
“He was dead when they brought Him in.”
“Where’d you find Him?”
“A warehouse on Delancey Street.”
“It’s the work of an existentialist. We’re sure of that.”
“How can you tell.”
“Haphazard way how it was done. Doesn’t seem to be any system
“A crime of passion?”
“You got it. Which means you’re a suspect, Kaiser.”
“Everybody down at headquarters knows how you feel about Jaspers.”
“That doesn’t make me. a killer.”
“Not yet, but you’re a suspect.”
Outside on the street I sucked air into my lungs
and tried to dear my head. I took a cab over to
Newark and got out and walked a block to Giordino’s Italian
Restaurant. There, at a back table, was His Holiness.
It was the Pope, all right. Sitting with two guys I had seen in half a
dozen police line-ups.
“Sit down,” he said, looking up from his fettucine. He held out a
ring. I gave him my toothiest smile, but didn’t
kiss it. It bothered him and I was glad. Point for me.
“Would you like some fettucine?”
No thanks, Holiness. But you go ahead.”
“Nothing? Not even a salad?”
“I just ate.”
“Suit yourself, but they make a great Roquefort dressing here. Not
like the Vatican, where you can’t get a decent
“I’ll come right to the point, Pontiff. I’m looking for God.”
“You came to the Right person.”
“Then He does exist?”
They all found this very amusing and laughed.
The hood next to me said, “Oh, that’s funny. Bright boy wants to know
if He exists.”
I shifted my chair to get comfortable and brought the leg down on his
“Sorry.” But he was steaming.
“Sure He exists, Lupowitz, but I’m the only one that communicates with
Him. He speaks only through me.”
“Why you, pal?”
“Because I got the red suit.”
“Don’t knock it. Every morning I rise, put on this red suit, and
suddenly I’m a big cheese. It’s all in the suit. I
mean, face it, if I went around in slacks and a sports jacket, I
couldn’t get arrested religion-wise.
“Then it’s a hype. There’s no God.”
“I don’t know. But what’s the difference? The money’s good.”
“You ever worry the laundry won’t get your red suit back on time and
you’ll be like the rest of us?”
“I use the special one-day service. I figure it’s worth the extra few
cents to be safe.”
“Name Claire Rosensweig mean anything to you?”
“Sure. She’s in the science department at Bryn Mawr.”
“Science, you say? Thanks.”
“The answer, Pontiff.”
I grabbed a cab and shot over the George
Washington Bridge. On the way I stopped at my
office and did some fast checking. Driving to Claire’s apartment, I
put the pieces together, and for the first time
they fit. When I got there she was in a diaphanous peignoir and
something seemed to be troubling her.
“God is dead. The police were here. They’re looking for you. They
think an existentialist did it.”
“No, sugar. It was you.”
“What? Don’t make jokes, Kaiser.” “It was you that did it.” “What are
“You, baby. Not Heather Butkiss or Claire Rosensweig, but Doctor Ellen
“How did you know my name?”
“Professor of physics at Bryn Mawr. The youngest one ever to head a
department there. At the mid-winter Hop you get
stuck on a jazz musician who’s heavily into philosophy. He’s married,
but that doesn’t stop you.
A couple of nights in the hay and it feels like love. But it doesn’t
work out because something comes between you.
God. Y’see, sugar, he believed, or wanted to, but you, with your
pretty little scientific mind, had to have absolute
“No, Kaiser, I swear.”
“So you pretend to study philosophy because that gives you a chance to
eliminate certain obstacles. You get rid of
Socrates easy enough, but Descartes takes over, so you use Spinoza to
get rid of Descartes, but when Kant doesn’t
come through you have to get rid of him too.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“You made mincemeat out of Leibnitz, but that wasn’t good enough for
you because you knew if anybody believed Pascal
you were dead, so he had to be gotten rid of too, but that’s where you
made your mistake because you trusted Martin
Buber. Except, sugar, he was soft. He believed in God, so you had to
get rid of God yourself.”
“Kaiser, you’re mad!”
“No, baby. You posed as a pantheist and that gave you access to Him if
He existed, which he did. He went with you to
Shelby’s party and when Jason wasn’t looking, you killed Him.”
“Who the hell are Shelby and Jason?”
“What’s the difference? Life’s absurd now anyway.”
“Kaiser,” she said, suddenly trembling. “You wouldn’t turn me in?”
“Oh yes, baby. When the Supreme Being gets knocked off, somebody’s got
to take the rap.”
“Oh, Kaiser, we could go away together. Just the two of us. We could
forget about philosophy. Settle down and maybe
get into semantics.”
“Sorry, sugar. It’s no dice.”
She was all tears now as she started lowering the
shoulder straps of her peignoir and I was standing
there suddenly with a naked Venus whose whole body seemed to be
saying, Take me—I’m yours. A Venus whose right hand
tousled my hair while her left hand had picked up a forty-five and
was holding it behind my back. I let go with a
slug from my thirty-eight before she could pull the trigger, and she
dropped her gun and doubled over in disbelief.
“How could you, Kaiser?”
She was fading fast, but I managed to get it in, in time.
“The manifestation of the universe as a complex idea unto itself as
opposed to being in or outside the true Being of
itself is inherently a
conceptual nothingness or Nothingness in relation to any abstract form
of existing or to exist or having existed in
perpetuity and not subject
to laws of physicality or motion or ideas relating to non-matter or
the lack of objective Being or subjective
It was a subtle concept but I think she understood before she died.
– Woody Allen (Getting Even)
Woody Allen folks…So what if he looks like a chicken embryo with
glasses.So what if the guy married his own
This stuff is pure unadulterated genius.Riotously funny and pure genius.
I wanna write like this guy.
- Woody Allen’s Mr. Big (kprudchenko.wordpress.com)